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Meg Sorensen

The Web by Nette Hilton & Amy Amaryllis by Sally Odgers

September 1992, no. 144

You often bring baggage to a book. Previous books. Gossip. The author’s photograph. The design or picture on the cover. Tabula rasa I am not. As a reviewer, I do endeavour to wipe the slate as clean as possible, but there’s always the odd smudge. In the case of Nette Hilton’s The Web, I found my hackles rising on sight. What was this! A rip-off comic strip version of E.B. White with loopy drawings à la Quentin Blake?

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What a tragedy it would have been if after ten years the French had decided to let de Brunhoff’s masterworks fall by the wayside; if the Americans had shelved Sendak in favour of something more ‘current’, or the English publishers of Beatrice Potter had let her little masterpieces languish without giving them a kick-start every decade or so!

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Hero, Allan Baillie’s sixth novel for young readers, shows this seasoned storyteller at his best. Succinct yet incisive, it is a highly disciplined display of how tight technique can turn a single incident into an exciting story. Right from the first line, ‘A single drop of water exploded on Pamela Browning’s open exercise book’, we know we are on the precipice of an event towards which every mumble on the earth and rumble in the sky lead.

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